When Gary Rhodes met Princess Diana

Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes cooked for many famous people during his long and illustrious career – but one meal with a member of the royal family left him star struck.

The late chef remembered his surprise meeting with Princess Diana in 1995 with great fondness, after she arrived for a meal at the Greenhouse restaurant in London, where he was head chef.

The star of MasterChef, who tragically died at the age of 59 in November, had spoken of his delight when the People’s Princess went into his restaurant with American actor Tom Hanks after the London premiere of his blockbuster movie Apollo 13. Not only did Rhodes cook dinner for the VIP guests, he was also invited to sit down and dine with them!

© dov makabaw / Alamy Stock Photo

Royal dinner guest
At the time, Rhodes was 35 years old and had been head chef at the Greenhouse, in Mayfair, for five years. The menu at the restaurant became famous for its revival of classic British meals. He introduced his own versions of fishcakes, faggots, braised oxtails and bread and butter pudding, receiving a Michelin star for the Greenhouse in January 1996.

Diana, Princess of Wales, who was 34 at the time, had watched the premier of Apollo 13, before enjoying a private dinner with its star, Hanks, who played the spaceship’s commander, Jim Lovell. Rhodes was thrilled when they walked into his restaurant. In an interview in 2005, he described the princess as the “most famous person” he had ever cooked for.

He was surprised and delighted when he was invited to dine with his world-famous guests, describing this as being a “rare” occurrence. He was so enthralled by meeting Diana that he admitted afterwards he couldn’t actually remember what he had cooked, because it was “such a special moment”!

A famous photograph was taken at their meeting, showing Rhodes bowing to Diana, who was smiling back at him and looking very regal in a luxurious black gown. The iconic photo “went viral” in the days before social media, appearing in the national newspapers and magazines.

Tributes
London-born Rhodes went on to receive the OBE on 17th June 2006 for his legendary dedication to his craft. He had starred in many popular TV series including MasterChef, MasterChef USA and Hell’s Kitchen. He moved to Dubai in 2011, where he ran a number of restaurants, including Rhodes Twenty10 and Rhodes Mezzanine.

Rhodes died suddenly in Dubai on 26th November 2019. Reports said he had been taken ill during a break in filming a new TV series and passed away a short time afterwards. His family confirmed his death was as a result of a subdural haematoma after he fell at home and hit his head.

Tributes poured in from all over the world for the man nicknamed the “first rock star of cooking”. He was famous for his spiky hair and contemporary image at a time when many celebrity chefs were more conservative.

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